Monthly Archives: January 2011

Essence Still Trying (and Failing) With Mobile

Essence magazine has content that they are trying to let mobile readers see. It’s just that, well, you can’t see it.  We’ve written about Essence before here on  I decided to try them again to check in on their latest efforts. Here’s how it went.

The most recent edition of Essence prompts theimage: Essence Mobile Tag reader to scan the (Microsoft) tag to “Tune in to Shake Your Beauty on” Why this is compelling I’m not quite sure but I’m not a subscriber nor do I even read the magazine so perhaps there’s something I don’t know about “Shake Your Beauty.” Also, I can only guess that the tag will take me to a YouTube video based on previous experience but it doesn’t really tell me what I’m in for. Oh, well.

I pull out my HTC Hero and look through several screens of app icons until I find the one for Microsoft Tag Reader. I only do this because I happen to know that this style of barcode is an MS Tag and not because the page tells me it’s a MS Tag.. How many other people will know this? So I scan the code. (On a side-note here, one of the things that I like about he MS Tag is that you are taken directly to the destination rather than having to click ‘OK’ like you do in many other tag readers; one less step.) The scan does indeed appear to be taking me to YouTube, just as I’d guessed. And I’m on an actual video rather than at the Essence channel main page. It appears to be a behind-the-scenes video with Janet Jackson, the cover model this month. So far so good! Now I just need to play the video.  I look around for the superimposed arrow that starts the video but don’t see it. What I do see, however, is an unfortunate line of text at the bottom of the video box:

image: Essence mobile video fail

"Video cannot be played on mobile"

“Video cannot be played on mobile”




What could have saved this campaign?

Essence is getting close with this effort. They really are. That is, they are getting close to moving out of the fail column by having something that actually works. In this case the issue boils down to two things that Essence failed to do, test and re-test.

Someone on Essence marketing team should have rounded up 5 or 6 models of smartphone and tested the experience prior to print.  Any problem that comes up at that point can be solved before printing or, at worst, the tag and call-to-action could be removed.

So testing would have saved the campaign from outright failure but there are other improvements that may help such as a more engaging call-to-action. Tease the reader with a hint about what is ‘behind’ the tag. What’s so special that the reader should pull out their phone and go through all the steps? Additionally, a mobile-optimized web page into which the videos are embedded can allow Essence to control the experience a little better and give the reader additional things to do on their mobile; a direct link to a video is something of a dead-end.

Babies”R”Us Still Crawling With SMS

I saw the call-to-action inside a recent Babies”R”Us direct mail piece.  It was their usual multi-page piece and I saw the mobile call-to-action near the back just before several pages of coupons. Taking up about 1/6th of a page it would have been fairly easy to miss

image: BabiesRUs Mobile SMS


but my eyes are rather tuned to looking for anything mobile so I caught the now familiar line, “Text BABIES6 to 30364” It didn’t really say what kind of  ’deals’ but these SMS alert programs rarely do, unfortunately.

Initially, the process was pretty standard. Once I sent BABIES6 I received a basic welcome message comprised mostly of verbiage required by the mobile operators and the MMA (Mobile Marketing Association). That was fine. But then another message came in a minute or so later. This one said,

“Hi! Help Babies”R”Us personalize the messages we send you! Reply now with your FULL NAME and ZIP CODE ex: JOHN SMITH, 55555.”

Hmm, interesting. Not sure why they want my full name, perhaps that’s the ‘personalize’ part. I guess they will probably match these three items (name, zip, phone number) to my Toys”R”Us loyalty account so they will know some of the stuff I’ve bought? Makes sense; they could roughly determine the age of my son based on the age category of the toys and diaper sizes I buy. We’ll see!

I go ahead and send my full name and address just the way they instructed. I get no reply so I’m not sure if they understood it or if they even got it. Whatever. I’ll just see what happens.

The next day I receive a message from 30364:

image: BabiesRUs Mobile

The first impression.

Wait. Where’s the personalization? I sent them my info in order to help them ‘personalize the messages’! I was really expecting to see my name in the message at the very least even if they didn’t have an offer for me based on my past purchases. Minor disappointment. In fact, looking closer at the message I don’t even see the offer. Apparently there are two days remaining in which I can ‘stock up’ but that’s not an offer. Are they going out of business and closing their doors in two days? Can’t I go in next week and ‘stock up’? What’s the offer??


As I write this I also notice that the ‘offer’ message starts out using title-case (i.e., capitalizing every word) and halfway through drops to regular or sentence-case. The author also seemed to run out of room at the end eliminating spaces in the stop instructions. Not a huge deal but the message lacked a certain consistency. I’ll stick with it for now, though, and see what happens next time.


What could have saved this campaign?

This appears to be a very early effort by Babies “R” Us.  I give them some credit for promoting their mobile efforts in the direct mail piece and not making me wait two weeks for my first message but overall there were many misses. Generally, it appears there is either little strategy behind the effort or they simply need some experienced help, probably the latter.
1)  Acknowledge every SMS. When someone sends you a text message – especially one with personal information – you need to acknowledge that you/your system received it.
2)  Make a valuable offer. If a consumer allows you to be ‘in their pocket’ you need to avoid anything that smacks of spam. Babies “R” Us should have an offer in their broadcasts, ideally one that is only available to mobile subscribers.
3)  Promote your other mobile efforts. Babies “R” Us has a mobile-optimized e-commerce web site. This url should be in every single broadcast.

- Kelly